The clincher here is that NRI earnings are not taxable in India and hence the charge of tax evasion would not hold water.
The global banking sector saw its largest data leak in 2008 after French-Italian whistle-blower Hervé Falciani released names and details of more than 130,000 suspected tax evaders with bank accounts in HSBC Geneva.
Falciani, who worked in HSBC’s IT division, fled while under investigation in Switzerland, to France and later Spain.
More than 1,195 of those names were Indians – many notable businessmen and politicians included, with balance totalling Rs 25,420 crore, a three-month-long global project between Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), Paris-based Le Monde newspaper and The Indian Express revealed.
In the most recent development, many Indian on the list fearing legal fallout have submitted relevant passports to Swiss authorities in a bid to establish their non-resident Indian (NRI) status for the period under consideration, as per a report in The Economic Times.
The clincher here is that NRI earnings are not taxable in India – hence the charge of tax evasion would not hold water, and many are hence trying to prove they stayed out of India for over 182 days. Another argument is the absence of pending litigation, the paper stated.
The other argument of it being ‘stolen data’, has been circumvented as India has not specified a source for the information and Switzerland’s Federal Supreme Court noted this while allowing tax authorities to turn over bank account details of two Indian citizens who had fought the release on the grounds of it being stolen data.
While the Swiss Federal Tax Administration (FTA) has pro tem refrained from disclosing names of at least three individuals; bank account statements and relating documents will be shared with the Indian government for accounts in existence post-April 01, 2011, the ET report added.
As per the ruling, while account-holders will be notified for consent before information is shared, details of those who do not consent is also sent after being recorded in the country’s official gazette; and 11 such names have already been recorded.
Information sharing as part of the Indo-Swiss treaty is effective from 2011 and Swiss authorities are currently questioning residency status only for the relevant period.
The revelation of the list had triggered a directive from the Supreme Court, post which the Narendra Modi government had on May 27, 2015, constituted a special investigative team (SIT) to deepen the probe. The SIT Chairman MB Shah had then said that action would be taken after facts were verified.

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